The Hormone – Cortisol
INTRODUCTION TO HORMONES:
We are going to be going over some more hormones over the next couple weeks. One thing that people don’t realize is the impact everything we eat, drink, put on our skin and breath has on our hormones. Our endocrine system (hormones) pretty much dictate how our body works. Along side our gut and digestive, the hormones are such a vital importance to our life.
If you want to live a healthy life – a truly healthy life – you will learn more about these two systems in the human body and these posts will be a good starting point for you.fast payday loans for every one
A few pieces of info before we start:
After the age of 20, it is said that our basal metabolic rate drops about 2% per decade and after 40, it slows down 5% per decade.
A woman’s testosterone and progesterone peaks in their 20′s. They decline the rest of their lives.
The HGH (human growth hormone) secretion declines by about 75% after the age of 35.
We need to look at it that weight loss or weight gain isn’t about your metabolism, but instead it’s an expression of what our metabolism does. ( I heard this great quote somewhere but can’t remember who said it.)
Our metabolism is the combination of all the molecules, hormones and the brain, gut and fat cell messenger chemicals that regulate the rate you burn calories. Obviously more than just weight.
As we eat, there are important enzymes in our digestive tract that break down the food we eat and the beverages we drink.
This is what takes place: protein is turned into amino acids, fats are turned into fatty acids and carbs are turned into glucose.
Then, the blood will take each of those components to the body’s cells. When they arrive at the cells, a chemical reaction is triggered and this is what determines how each component is used aka metabolized. It will either be burned now as energy or stored as fat or used to build muscle. All this will be done with hormones.
What you eat really does make a difference.
So, what are these hormones and how are they altering the very life we live each day? Today we are discussing the hormone CORTISOL…
- Cortisol (also known as hydrocortisone) is secreted by the adrenal glands, more specifically, the outer part of each adrenal called the adrenal cortex, which are located on top of the kidneys. Have you have heard of adrenal burnout? This is a serious issue and can really damage your body.
- Cortisol is one of three hormones that are produced in the adrenals. Cortisol is released when you are stressed, overwhelmed, on edge, discouraged, etc. Some researchers refer to Cortisol as ‘the hormone of defeat’,
- There is much research to show that cortisol plays a part in abdominal obesity (aka, the spare tire). If you find that your waistline is wider than your hips, this ‘belly’ fat is said to cause inflammation of the arteries and thus increasing your chance of heart disease.
- Cortisol is known as a stress hormone and it gives us energy. This hormone is also known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone that, at one point in time, was only really used in situations where it was life or death. Those times when you had to escape from a wild animal, or the car rolls over someone and you all of a sudden have the ability to lift that car off the person. Cortisol is responsible for that ‘power’ to be somewhat superhuman.
- Cortisol helps keep us alive because it increases blood sugar levels, which in turn raises energy levels, it raises blood pressure and it neutralizes inflammation. Now some of you may be wondering how high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure are good for you. The doctor says they’re bad. And the doctor is right. It is not safe or healthy for those two parts of your system to be raised and have high levels. But, in cases of extreme emergency – it is necessary and life saving.
- Cortisol is released each time you eat something sugary and then your sugar levels drop quickly. With a high sugar diet, this leads to insulin issues as well.
- If you don’t release the excess cortisol in your system – in your blood – (exercise is good) this cortisol will increase your cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods. Cortisol will also decrease levels of Leptin, which we learned in a previous post will make you hungry.
- If you then eat, while Cortisol levels are high, then your body releases natural opioids (a good feeling chemical) and then you feel better. This sets up a psychological pattern of eating to relieve stress. You can see where this will lead.
- Too much Cortisol can break down bone and skin, which ultimately leads to easy bruising, stretch marks and even osteoporosis.
- When Cortisol levels are high for a long period of time, your body will actually resist weight loss – it goes into a saving mode (holds onto fat so you don’t starve). Cortisol will actually take fat from good plump areas, like the rear and hips, and will relocate it to the abdomen, where there are more Cortisol receptors present.
- The more abdominal fat you have, the more your body creates Cortisol, which slows down weight loss and also increases inflammation and insulin resistance. This becomes a viscous cycle.
- To quote Michael Aziz, MD in his book The Perfect 10 Diet which discusses 10 of the body’s most important hormones: “As insulin is secreted in higher amounts on a low-fat diet, blood sugar levels plummet. That’s where the cortisol link comes in. In primitive times, cortisol was called upon only when we encountered stressful situations, such as running from predators. It gives us quick energy to run from danger. But today, cortisol is called upon each time your sugar levels plummet after eating a cookie, drinking soda, or consuming any other sugary food or drink. This creates chronic high levels of cortisol. This leads to insulin secretion to deal with the sugar and in all this excess, insulin resistance follows.”
- We learned about insulin resistance and how your body’s cells no longer recognize the insulin and then an excess of insulin is secreted to deal with all the sugar (food) in the bloodstream. If you have excess cortisol in your bloodstream, this then shuts down serotonin (known as a neurotransmitter that affects your mood). When serotonin levels drop – depression kicks in.
- Excess cortisol also reduces your body’s production of melatonin (aka the sleep hormone). Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland. When your melatonin levels are low – you can’t sleep and this can lead to insomnia.
- Now, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, then your body also won’t produce and secrete enough HGH (the anti-aging hormone) which has it’s largest pulse at night.
- Your adrenals (which produce cortisol) can become overtaxed with stress and excess sugar intake and then eventually you can have adrenal fatigue or adrenal burn out.
- It is dangerous to take OTC (over the counter) adrenal support supplements. Research shows that these will do more harm than good and can cause adrenal insufficiency, which in some cases could be fatal.
- Over stimulation of our adrenals is an epidemic in this country, in which we are both victims of and addicted to our stressful environments, fast moving life and never resting lifestyles. If you keep your body and adrenals on long term cortisol highs (high stress, anger, fear, etc.) the results can lead to various health issues and it can also be fatal.
- Some symptoms of your body not producing enough cortisol are dark circles under your eyes, looking tired and worn down, you can’t deal with stressful situations, panic and anxiety attacks are more probable, and so much more.
- Adrenal fatigue and burn out aren’t recognized as a medical condition, but it most certainly is a reality with many people, especially in this generation where we are on the go 24/7, working high stress, fast paced jobs, skipping meals, drinking Starbucks every day, socially drinking alcohol several times a week, eating sugary foods and processed and refined foods.
- Conditions associated with too high or too low levels of Cortisol are: Addison’s Disease (JFK suffered from this), Adrenal insufficiency, Cushing’s syndrome, Diabetes, Hypoglycemia and Insulin Resistance.
- When adrenals are abused, you are allowing the onset of possible health issues such as: diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
- Things to avoid which can cause Cortisol levels to become out of whack: consistent stress, dieting, aggression, not eating breakfast, lack of sleep, anger, conflicts, quick anger responses, excessive caffeine, fear, depression, alcohol consumption, foods containing trans-fats, low-fat diets and too much sugar.
- It’s good to rest, exercise, deal with stressful situations quickly – but not angrily, avoid snap reactions, take time to relax and focus on the good and positive – not negative things and obstacles. Avoid excess sugar, make sure you get good, sound sleep and keep stress in check. Our bodies were not created to handle stress on a 24 hour a day basis. We need to take control of the situation so we don’t end up with adrenal burn out.
I don’t know about you, but I still find it so fascinating that all these hormones tie into together with the overall health of our body. Each hormone is not one by itself, but a player on a team. When one gets out of whack, the whole team ends up out of whack as well. Cortisol has the potential to affect many areas of our physical body – but we need it to work for us on the positive side. If you find you are overly stressed with prolonged stress, agitated, you ‘snap’ easily – then it’s time to take a look at Cortisol and evaluate if you have caused your levels to be too high or too low. Check your diet, check your attitude and see what you can change to get these levels working right again.
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